At least five Montana sheriffs recently went on record saying they won’t enforce any future federal gun-control measures they deem unconstitutional, so the Vigilante contacted Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton to see where he stands.
News about the sheriffs’ positions broke after a couple state lawmakers, gun-rights activists and county sheriffs sent an open letter by email to Montana law-enforcement officials encouraging them to defy any new federal gun laws. The letter also urged them to prevent federal agents from enforcing such laws and to post statements online clearly stating their positions.
This comes at a time when paranoia is growing in some circles because President Obama recently released his ideas for tightening gun-control laws — particularly those related to military-style assault weapons — in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.
Rep. Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel), Sen. Terry Murphy (R-Cardwell), gun-rights lobbyist Gary Marbut, an NRA board member and a few people involved in law enforcement signed the letter and posted it online on January 19.
Dutton didn’t join the other sheriffs and issued no statement until asked to do so.
Dutton’s response points out the fact that the president didn’t order confiscation of anyone’s guns, but it is also clear in saying that, if such a thing ever were to happen, the local sheriff’s office would not participate.
Here is Sheriff Dutton’s response in its entirety (with minor changes in punctuation):
When a Peace Officer or law enforcement officer from the State of Montana is sworn in, he/she takes, swears, or affirms an oath of office. The oath is to support, protect and defend the Constitution of United States and the Constitution of the State of Montana. The second amendment is part of those documents. In review of the President’s executive order and proposed Congressional action, there are no orders of confiscation. If there were, however, I could not abide with those directions, as this would be in direct conflict with both constitutions. There are several points in the Executive action I find helpful: provide incentives for schools to hire school resources officers (also suggested by the NRA), and provide law enforcement authorities, first responders and school officials with proper training for armed-attack situations. There are also several proposed actions that will be problematic.
My stand is I support citizens of Lewis and Clark County, State of Montana and United States to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the second amendment. I am elected by the citizens of Lewis and Clark County and I report to them; they in turn expect me to keep the peace and enforce the laws of this state. We as citizens of this great nation must hold people accountable for their actions, not objects. In keeping with our independence, our citizens need the ability to defend themselves against the criminal element, hunt for their sustenance and stand confidently against oppression. You will not find the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies participating in ANY confiscation of firearms in an unlawful manner. Please understand local and state law enforcement officers do not enforce or carry out federal mandates or executive orders. From my knowledge, the federal officers I have spoken to have no orders or intention to confiscate weapons.
If you have committed a crime against persons, or used a weapon in an unlawful manner, to commit a crime as outlined by Montana statues, then the individual leaves us no choice but to take it. These are rules you as citizens agree on, to keep the peace.
Mental health issues are extremely important to us. We can do better there. We as a society need a system to allow someone to access mental health care, without feeling like they are forever banned from owning a weapon. Clearly there are those individuals who are mentally unstable who should not be allowed to possess firearms, but there are differences between the two.